In just over five months, a total solar eclipse will blot out the sun across a wide swath of North America for the first time since 2017. If you want to catch a seat at the show, you might want to book your room now — and be prepared to pay a premium.
In Erie, Pa., a Hampton Inn studio with two queen beds that usually goes for as little as $210 a night was commanding $1,188 this week. A studio with two twin beds at the Extended Stay America Suites in Amherst, N.Y., (near Buffalo) was going for $1,164 instead of less than $150, a typical nightly rate. Some other hotels have already sold out.
The eclipse, on April 8, will begin in Mazatlán, Mexico, and sweep across 13 U.S. states, from Texas to Maine. In some places, total darkness could last up to four and a half minutes. Cheering crowds are likely to fill the streets, as they did in 2017, and the sound of car horns will fill the highways as giant traffic jams also make a comeback.
“It’s a little bit like going to a big sporting event where people take their time getting in but everybody wants to leave at the same time,” said Scott Katsinas, a travel adviser at Katsinas Travel Consultants in Tucson, Ariz.
Texas, Arkansas and portions of southeastern Oklahoma will be prime destinations because the weather in those states is likely to be clear, said Michael Zeiler, a solar eclipse cartographer at GreatAmericanEclipse.com, a website that provides information about solar eclipses around the world.
Hotels in those three states have been filling up for months, and the prices of rooms in places like Indianapolis have nearly doubled. Midwestern and Northeastern states like Ohio, New York, Vermont and Maine, where clear skies are less guaranteed in early spring, have so far been less squeezed, but demand is growing.
‘OK, so I better actually book this’
Chris Dancer, 63, a freelance electronics engineer from Bentham, England, and an experienced eclipse chaser (this will be his seventh chase), booked his trip in June. Even then, with the eclipse still about 10 months away, he noticed that people in several eclipse-focused Facebook groups were struggling to find places to stay.
“I thought, OK, so I better actually book this,” Mr. Dancer said.
He and his wife, Diane Dancer, 61, reserved a cabin in Wickes, Ark., from April 7 to 9, for about $130 a night; as of this week, rooms and Airbnbs around Wickes started at around $375 a night.
Major hotel chains say demand has jumped in the eclipse zone. Some properties owned by IHG Hotels & Resorts, which includes brands like Hotel Indigo, InterContinental and Holiday Inn, are sold out in Bloomington, Ind., said Brian Hicks, a senior vice president at IHG.
Finding accommodations is hardly easier for those banking on home-sharing services like Airbnb and Vrbo, with some guests saying that they have been pressured to accept higher prices after booking a rental for the eclipse.
Joanna Carina, 50, a professional photographer from St. Paul, Minn., said she lost out on a Vrbo booking in Arkansas after the owner tried to raise the price to $750 from $250 soon after she booked, forcing her to cancel and find a different location.
Mrs. Carino, who is planning to spend a long eclipse weekend joined by her husband, two children, and another couple and their child, started making arrangements nearly a year early and reserved two rentals, one via Airbnb in Port Clinton, Ohio, and a second via Vrbo in Arkansas. Mrs. Carina explained that she wanted a backup in case of poor weather in one location.
She still has the Airbnb in Port Clinton but rented a different place on Vrbo in Heber Springs, Ark., after the unexpected price change.
Vrbo announced a new policy this month, penalizing hosts in the United States who cancel bookings, said Melanie Fish, head of public relations at Expedia Brands, which includes Vrbo. They will incur a fee based on the total cost of the booking and when the cancellation was made. If an owner cancels less than 30 days before the reservation, the fee will go up, and it will be at its highest if the cancellation occurs within a week of the reservation.
It’s not too late, but hurry
All this might seem overwhelming, but it’s still possible to book an eclipse trip, travel experts say. One thing they agree on: Do it now.
Reasonably priced hotel rooms in the eclipse zone are still available, if you look beyond the major destinations. For example, this week, the Quality Inn & Suites Watertown Fort Drum, in Calcium, N.Y., had one room left, starting at $115 per night. The Pear Tree Inn, in Sikeston, Mo., had rooms starting at $270 a night. And the Motel 6 in Lima, Ohio, had rooms starting at $111 per night.
Campsites may also still be available along the zone of totality, but they are booking up fast.
In Indiana, some campgrounds around Monroe Lake, near Bloomington, are already full, but campsites with a view of the eclipse are still open in a few other state parks, said Ginger Murphy, deputy director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Minimum reservations are for that Sunday night and Monday night, she added. Mounds State Park, northeast of Indianapolis, for example, has some sites starting at $20 a night.
In Texas, R.V. sites at the Waco RV Park were still available for $37 a night. Campsite reservations at Texas state parks may be made five months in advance — meaning early November for the eclipse weekend — and normally start at around $20 a night.
With campsites such a hot commodity, some landowners are jumping in. Serenity Lewis-Lockhart, 46, a manager of H.W. Lewis Ranch in Leakey, Texas, said the property would open up to host about 350 guests in two different areas, mostly for basic camping but with a few R.V. hookups. Reservations for a basic camping spot start at $550 for two nights, with 10 guests maximum.
If you are planning to book more than one location to have a backup for bad weather, carefully check hotel cancellation policies, because they might be stricter for that period, warned Eric Hrubant, president and founder of the CIRE Travel agency.
Mr. Katsinas, the travel adviser in Tucson, also recommended looking for accommodations about an hour’s drive away from the path of totality, preferably in a big city, where more options are available. But if you do that, remember that traffic could snarl your plans.
Finally, take advantage of local tourism websites. Many, including eclipse-specific sites in Vermont and Austin, Texas, offer specific resources to help find lodging, events and other resources.
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